Much Ado About Nothing constantly compares the social world—masquerade balls, witty banter, romance and courtship—with the military world. War of wit and love are compared to real wars in a metaphor that extends through every part of the play. The rivalry of Benedick and Beatrice is called a “merry war,” and the language they use with and about each other is almost always military: as when Benedick complains that “[Beatrice] speaks poniards, and every word stabs.” Romance, too, is made military. The arrows of Cupid are frequently mentioned, and the schemes which the characters play on each other to accomplish their romantic goals are similar to military operations. Like generals, the characters execute careful strategies and tricks.
Don John and Don Pedro, enemies in the war before the play begins, face off again on the field of social life: one schemes to ruin a marriage, another to create one. Benedick and Beatrice are “ambushed,” by their friends into eavesdropping on staged conversations. Borachio stations Margaret as a “decoy,” in Hero’s window. The “merry war,” of Much Ado About Nothing ends just like the real war that comes before the beginning of the play: everyone has a happy ending. At the very beginning, Leonato says that “A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers”—in this, the end of a good comedy resembles the end of a good war.
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare ThemeTracker
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Quotes in Much Ado About Nothing
“A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers.”
“There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her; they never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them.”
“I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain.”
“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.”
“Speak low, if you speak love.”
“…of this matter
Is little Cupid’s crafty arrow made,
That only wounds by hearsay.”
“Even she: Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero.”
“O! that I were a man for his sake, or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules, that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.”
“I was not born under a rhyming planet.”